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Guest Post: Is Mandarin Difficult? It Depends

English: Main archway at the Liberty Square in...

According to many articles that I have read, Mandarin is one of top 10 most difficult languages to learn. I am a native Mandarin speaker and also a language teacher. From my over 4 years of teaching experience, I find it very interesting to observe the learning process of my students. I figured out that everyone has their own learning technique. Here, I would like to share some learning tips with you.

1. Motivation 

Have you ever asked yourself why you want to learn Mandarin?
What is your purpose or goal for learning this language?
Before beginning the lesson, I always ask my students those questions. It is very important for a language learner. Why? I found that person with clear motivation usually excels in the language easier.

One of my Canadian student, Patrick Jabbaz, told me that his reason is because of the job. He has moved to Taiwan and he is also the only English speaker in the company. He thinks that Mandarin would likely be the language of the future. He sets a goal for himself, "Be fluent in 6 months". Because of that reason, he still keeps on learning Mandarin for 1.5 hours a day with tutors despite having busy schedule.

My Italian student, Marco Casarola, told me that his reason is his plan to work in Taiwan after he graduates from his MBA study next year. He knows that he has to learn Mandarin and his goal is to reach fluency by next year.

From my students, I found out that strong learning motivation could make learning easier and faster. What is your motivation of learning Mandarin?

2. Fun learning

Watching Chinese TV shows or movies, going to KTV (Karaoke TV) to sing Chinese songs, or playing Mahjong with your Taiwanese or Chinese friends are several fun ways to learn Mandarin.
One of my American students told me that because of playing Mahjong with friends, he had learned many Chinese characters! It made him so happy!

You need to find an interesting and fun way to learn languages. You can also download some interesting apps to help you to learn Mandarin. The more interesting it is, the more you will learn, which is obviously good for you!

3. Hangout with native Mandarin speakers

I know that you would sometimes feel frustrated being lost in the conversation when you hang out with your Mandarin-speaking friends. I totally understand that kind of feeling. I have experienced it when I was learning English in Canada, but I still tried my best to hang out with native English speakers.

Believe me, just let it be, just keep on listening even though you might don't understand any word. Get out of your first language comfort zone, keep learning, and ask your Chinese or Taiwanese friends about things that you don’t understand. Finally, your Mandarin will improve rapidly.

4. Action 

To exercise your Chinese reading, you can read Chinese articles from the Internet, magazine, or books about topics that you like. If it is boring or too difficult, stop and find something new. You can read for pleasure for at least an hour a day, change your phone language to Mandarin, or send text messages as often as possible.

I can understand that forming sentences in the beginning could take you ages, but when you have typed " 你nǐ 今jīn 天tiān 好hǎo 嗎mā ?" for 10 times, you will do it as easy as drinking water !


Claire started her career as a teacher since she was 22. She has taught arts, English, and Mandarin. She has got TEC (Teaching English to Children), TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages) certifications. Teaching is the greatest passion in her life.

For the past 4 years, she has taught Mandarin at three Mandarin learning centers, and she was also a Chinese tutor in Canada. She moved back to Taiwan in January to run her own Mandarin teaching service in Taipei, Taiwan. As a result of her plenty teaching experience, she is an expert in teaching students of all different levels, ages, and backgrounds. She is recognized as a professional, patient and dedicated teacher.

Claire started to make some short videos for Chinese learners to learn some Chinese learning tips and slangs, here is the link:

Don't hesitate to email Claire at hello.mandarin8@gmail.com,visit her personal website at hellomandarinchinese.wordpress.com or LinkedIn at tw.linkedin.com/pub/claire-wang/97/b05/38/ 

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